The present paper discusses the importance of non-destructive and micro-destructive technology in forensic investigations in the field of cultural heritage. Recent technological developments and the wide availability of modern analytical instrumentation are creating new possibilities for performing scientific measurements and acquiring data directly on-site—thereby limiting, where possible, sampling activity—as well as learning about the technologies and materials that were employed in the past to create cultural assets. Information on periods, chemical composition, manufacturing techniques, etc., can be gathered more easily. Overall, the benefits of on-site forensic investigations are multiple, including the potential to increase substantially the speed and efficacy of the criminal justice system. However, such benefits are only realized when data quality is guaranteed and findings can be used as forensic evidence in court. The present paper shows data from the non-destructive and micro-destructive analysis of different artworks and objects provided by the Cosenza Carabinieri Unit for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and Anti-Counterfeiting (Calabria, Italy). In particular, two oil paintings on canvas depicting cherubs (Italian: putti), recovered as fragments of larger religious artworks, and two bronze belt and helmet fragments were investigated. In the first case, the research aimed to define the original pictorial layer, identify any reconstruction pictorial areas or pictorial retouching, assess the state of conservation, reconstruct the previous conservation treatments, and provide indications about the chronology of the artworks. In the second case, analysis was performed both to define the bronze chemical composition and the origin of the soil (earth) found within the objects during their recovery. For these purposes, the analytical approach involved the use of non-destructive and micro-destructive analysis as follows: infrared reflectography (IRR), ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence (UV), X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF), digital optical microscopy (DOM), scanning electron microscopy equipped with EDX microanalysis (SEM-EDX), and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). The results made it possible to collect valuable diagnostic information and answer questions posed by the institutions for the resolution of various doubts about forensic science and cases concerning the seizure, recovery, or return of archaeological or historical-artistic objects of cultural interest.
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